How to Boost Excitement About Creativity

This Post appeared earlier and was requested by a long-time subscriber.

 

You want to be creative and breed creativity in your workplace, right?Images7

Do you consider yourself to be "creative?"

Creative_baby
I was just talking with my cousin, Len, a long-time public school teacher and Principal. Len is also a master coach  He noted that if you ask first-graders how many of them are "creative," pretty much all of the hands in the class go up. They smile. They show their colorful drawings and finger painting and maybe even compose a song along the way.

What happens when the same question is asked of the same kids a few years later? The responses drop to nearly zero. And the kids are still in elementary school.

Fast forward to your business meeting. Someone says "Let's get creative about how to grow the market in Asia. We've got until 5 o'clock."

Are you and I seeing the same thing here?

We've got little kids who are convinced they are creative. Then we've got bigger little kids who don't think so anymore. Now we've got adults who are sure they aren't creative being asked to create--and with a deadline.

This post is a call for thought, not a rant. (Well, a little one). It seems to me that we have taken an entire population of creative youngsters, tell them to color inside the box (or else!), and now tell them to "think outside the box"--(or else!).

Nine things to encourage creativity

Silvano Arieti  wrote a book in 1976 called Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (you can get a used copy through amazon.com). Here are his nine conditions and the reasons why:

1. Aloneness. Being alone allows the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.

2. Inactivity. Periods of time are needed to focus on inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.

3. Daydreaming. Allows exploration of one's fantasy life and venturing into new avenues for growth.

4. Free thinking. Allows the mind to wander in any direction without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or concepts to emerge.

5. State of readiness to catch similarities
. One must practice recognizing similarities and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.

6. Gullibility. A willingness to suspend judgment allows one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.

7. Remembering & replaying past traumatic conflicts. Conflict can be transformed into more stable creative products.

8. Alertness. A state of awareness that permits the person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.

9. Discipline. A devotion to the techniques, logic, and repetition that permit creative ideas to be realized.

So now we go to our boss and say "I'd like to have some extended alone time for inactivity and daydreaming so I can come up with a creative idea for your strategy."

(Please let me know how that conversation goes).

You can act to create creativity

Then next time you have charge of a meeting or idea session, how about using some of the above items to lay a foundation for creativity.

  • Build in "alone time" by having people think about the task well in advance.
  • Suspend judgment and encourage the craziest ideas in the room, because
  • Alertness (number 8) will connect the "crazy" dots

I hope you'll use these to be intentional about creativity. It sounds almost like an oxymoron--"intentional creativity"--but according to number 9 it isn't.

Intentional Creativity--that's a lot easier to sell to your boss than some alone time.

Graphic Source: www.bhmpics.com

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Inclined to Collaborate? You Should Be

"Collaboration is a key driver of overall performance of companies around the world. Its impact is twice as significant as a company’s aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities (strategic orientation) and five times as significant as the external market environment (market turbulence)."

As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It’s just that simple.”

That is a pretty powerful claim. It is substantiated by a research study done through a collaborative effort of Frost & Sullivan, Microsoft, and Verizon.  

CollaborateThe researchers created a collaboration index to measure a company’s relative “collaborativeness” based on two main factors:

 
  • An organization’s orientation and infrastructure to collaborate, including collaborative technologies such as audioconferencing, Web conferencing and instant messaging
 
  • The nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organization’s culture and processes that encourage teamwork

Do You Play Well With Others?

This may seem like an abrupt switch from the serious tone, depth, and breadth of the study. But I needed that kind of data to help lead into an important career trait: playing well with others.

The study is right on target by highlighting the need for the right tools, systems, and culture. Yet it ultimately comes down to the individual. If you work in a global organization, you've got some extra challenges: time zone differences, language differences, cultural differences in what constitutes teamwork...(add your own experience by sending a comment!)

I just spent 3 hours coaching a client who is now forced to deal with a highly intelligent, high-performing manager who isn't viewed as collaborative. By anyone. No one at any of their worldwide locations gave him decent feedback on teamwork and collaboration. And this has been happening for a few years. (He continues to achieve all of the goals set out for him--and no one dislikes him personally.)

His side of the story

I sat down and spoke with the manager some months ago about these perceptions and what that might mean to his career. He understood that people didn't see him as collaborative. His take on it is that they are universally wrong. He communicates when he believes it's necessary. I told him that he had to simply initiate more, share more information--even if it didn't make sense to him--and mend some strained relationships with those who thought he was actually hiding something. He  listened, gave intellectual rebuttals for why that didn't make sense, and chose not to do anything differently.

What happened?

His management career is finished...at least with his current employer. He'll probably have a shot at being an individual contributor in a specific discipline; but upward mobility is no longer a possibility.

Some people burn bridges. He never built them. We should take seriously the lessons we can learn from this real-life situation:

1. Organizations thrive because of collaboration. If you want to be seen as a player, then be one.

2. A high IQ doesn't compensate for low EQ. Your Emotional Quotient--your willingness and ability to relate and connect--is important to your company and your career.

3. Task results don't always matter if your behavior disrupts the rest of the system.

4. The study I cited noted the importance of processes, systems, and culture. This company's culture valued teamwork. That was one of their systems. Roesler's rule: Unless you have 51% of the vote, don't fight the system. The system always wins.

 

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Really: How Many Choices Do You Want?

The rallying cry of sales reps, product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

Choices

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

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Keep It Simple Like Einstein

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.

Einsteinsimplicity

Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too. 

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.

 

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Neutralize Fear, Bring Out the Sunshine

What do you do when faced with fear? Forget about saying you will overcome it, ignore it, or deal with it later. You have to make it real so you can see it and deal with it for what it is and isn't.

Give It a Name and Acknowledge It

In organizations we know "it" as "The elephant in the room." The unspoken "stuff" that is getting in the way of a meeting. People are afraid that if they name it, conflict and disaster will ensue.

Yet the opposite is true. Heck, I've earned significant income intervening with groups to neutralize an issue by identifying the Elephant out loud and then leading the ensuing discussion. It has never--ever--been the disaster that was expected. On the contrary, it usually leads to clarity of issues, acknowledgment and laughter about unspoken misunderstandings, and what could be described as a "breakthrough."

SunriseFear can be equally irrational individually. Fear is like "change." What the heck does someone mean when they say "We're going to change!"? No one knows what to do or how to do it. But if they say, "We're going to respond to customer inquiries within 8 hours instead of 24", everyone has an idea about how to deal with it.

Successful Twelve-Step programs are good examples of the importance of acknowledging or naming a situation in order to deal with it. They all start with an individual, verbal acknowledgment of a struggle, usually an addiction:

1. The problem is acknowledged by name

2. The verbal part acknowledges individual responsibility

3. There is accountability with one or more people to follow through

Name Your Fear Out Loud

1. Once you hear your voice speaking it, you own it. (If you keep it in your head it's like mentally practicing a presentation: it's never the real thing once you start the presentation!)

2. Tell someone you trust about the fear. Ask them what they know about it. Ask who else you can talk with about it.

3. Arrive at a point where you have a genuine, realistic grasp of the likelihood of the fear coming to fruition. Then, find out how serious it would be if it did happen.

4.  Determine whether or not it's something that's worthwhile avoiding or something that you want to act on.

Why be stupid or crazy? Some things are worth fearing and avoiding. But you won't know until you've done 1-3. To the extent we can, it's wise to base decisions on evidence and avoid negative fantasies.

Here Is Some Extreme Evidence For Naming It

Peter Koestenbaum is the author of Is There an Answer to Death. (OK, be honest. How many of you just bailed out?).

His intent is to show that there are times when dealing with existential questions can bring a greater meaning to life. He argues that the anticipation of the reality of death reveals who one really is. That act connects people with their deepest feelings, needs, and opportunities.

Koestenbaum says that anticipation of death can have ten consequences. Here is a suggestion:

Substitute the name of your fear for "death". Then, substitute "I" for "the individual."

  • By accepting the fact of being condemned to death, the individual can start living and thereby then neutralize fear.
  • By recognizing death, the individual is on the way to becoming decisive.
  • By remembering death, the individual concentrates on essentials.
  • By being aware of death, the individual achieves integrity.
  • Through knowing about death, the individual finds meaning in life.
  • By recognizing death, the individual will become honest.
  • Through the realization of death, the individual will gain strength.
  • By accepting death, the individual is motivated to take charge of his or her own life.
  • Through the thought of death, the individual is willing to assume a total plan for life.
  • By being aware of death, the individual escapes the stranglehold of failure.

What Does This Have to Do With the Workplace?

All growth is personal growth. If we're going to spend (way more than) 40 hours a week at our careers, then we're going to discover fearful situations. After 30 years of consulting I can tell you that no one ever really calls for organizational help. That's the presenting problem. The real issue is always, "I have a situation. Can you help?"

The next time someone faces a fearful situation, you can be the one to step up and help.

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Reconcile Your Relational Banking

Reconcile: 1 a : to restore to friendship or harmony <reconciled the factions> b : settleresolve <reconcile differences> 2 : to make consistent or congruous <reconcile an ideal with reality. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.

You and I wouldn't think about going through life without reconciling our bank accounts, ensuring that  posits, withdrawals, and balances are accurate. We know that unreconciled accounts can lead to overdraft charges and painful penalties. So we do our best to sit down, sort through the facts and figures, and when we see an error we do what it takes to reconcile the account. The longer we hold off, the more we risk creating a financial deficit.

 Workplace Reconciliation

Balance Relational AccountsThe same dynamic holds true for on-the-job accounts: relationships. We talk about the importance of credibility, integrity, influence, and trust. But do we take the time to sit down and reconcile real and perceived wrongs with the people whose trust we need and value?

I'm seeing a couple of workplace phenomena that demand relational reconciliation in order to move ahead free, unencumbered, and "in relationship":

1. The protracted economic recession/depression, along with its uncertainty (we want control) and attendant downsizing, is prompting normally relaxed people at all levels to lose their cool. Things are being said and done "in the moment" that are leading to disciplinary action and strained relations between people who have to work closely together to "get it done." Intervening to stop "it" and take disciplinary action is the right thing to do. However, although it stops the undesirable behavior, it doesn't re-start the relationship in a satisfying way to all those involved.

2. 360 Feedback. The Merriam-Webster definition #2 above mentions reconciling an ideal with a reality. That's what 360 Feedback is all about: surfacing any differences between intentions and actual impact. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a stack of 360 comments that were a total (negative) surprise, it's easy to feel "put upon" and defensive. It's equally easy to want to go on the offensive and even to make a biting remark or two about the results. 

What To Do

Both instances demand a follow-up session, albeit a bit different for each.

In example 1, someone did something offensive. That means, when things cool down, it's important for the individual to sit down with any others involved and:

a. Admit the error in judgment and the ensuing behavior

b. Apologize 

c. Ask for forgiveness

Those who were impacted need to:

a. Acknowledge that it was hurtful, and how, without belaboring the point. (The worst thing that can happen is saying nothing at all or "Oh, that's ok; it wasn't that bad." It was, or you wouldn't be there.

b. Thank the person for caring enough to take time to reconcile the relationship.

Both parties then need to express (if truthful) the wish to move on together and restore a mutually respectful working relationship.

Example 2 is a bit different, yet still requires a conversation. When people take time to offer feedback, especially the kind that requires numerical ratings and narratives, they've made an investment. Like corporate surveys, participants want to know the outcome and what, if anything, is likely to change.

For the sake of example, let's say a manager has received in-depth feedback from direct reports. A follow-up session would have this kind of framework:

a. Thank the people for their willingness to invest in his/her development.

b. Share the over-arching themes--not the details--of the data.

c. Acknowledge that there are clearly areas for development. Ask for any needed clarification and suggestions for specific changes that would lead to improved performance. 

d. At the next regularly scheduled meeting, take time at the outset to let the direct reports know what the focus of the changes will be, after considering their suggestions. Ask for verbal reinforcement  when a change is seen. Likewise, if something isn't happening as it should, invite continued reminders, especially "in the moment."

Healthy workplaces require healthy relationships. What's happening in your working world where reconciliation could move people, and the organization, toward a better place?

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Business or Busyness?

Recently I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

People-walking-fast-blurred 

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you handling this in your life?

 

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Relax! Can Actually Cause Stress

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. --William James

Bill may have been right.

But what happens when you are given thoughts?

The Irony of Trying to Relax

We're living in exceptionally stressful circumstances right now, and the workplace is hardly an exception. No doubt we've had someone suggest cavalierly, "Oh, just relax."

Sometimes that helps; sometimes it doesn't. There's a reason for both.

It turns out that the order to "relax"  can produce everything from anxiety to insomnia as a result of stress.

SkinTwo studies conducted by Wegner, Bloome and Blumberg found that "intentional relaxation under conditions of mental load or stress produces ironic increases in skin conductance level (SCL).

Note: Skin conductance  can be described simply as sweat gland activity. Using electrodes placed on two fingers of one hand, one can measure the tiny changes in the electrical activity of the sweat gland cells located in the deepest layer of the skin. Sweat glands are activated through inputs from several areas in the brain including the frontal lobes. Skin conductance is associated with arousal, mental activity, stress, fear, and positive and negative affect, which makes it a relatively simple yet informative psychophysiological measure.

The experiment was rather simple.

1. Participants in one group received progressive relaxation instructions.

2. Then they were told, "Now I'd like you to remember a number, and this is an important part of the experiment, so I'll keep repeating the number until you memorize it."

3. Participants in another group weren't given the relaxation instructions, just the task.

The outcome: Those instructed to relax under the high load of rehearsing a long number had higher SCL than those under a high load without instructions to relax.

What This Means for Business and the Business of Life

Mixed messages breed stress.I once watched a very well-intentioned manager start a team meeting by saying, "Here are the results of the 360 team feedback. I know some of the information may be thought-provoking, but just relax."

Had the statement only included the informational part, the immediately observable level of anxiety may not have occurred.

Multi-tasking as part of "Quality Time." Telling your spouse that you are going to relax while putting together your financial presentation and watching a DVD together is a lie. You may have sensed it before--now you know it's a scientific fact. Just hope (s)he doesn't have a polygraph with a couple of those finger electrodes nearby. If so, you better hope the gift shop is open late.

Telling someone to feel good may have the opposite effect. Hopefully, we all know that it is fruitless and even demeaning to try changing how someone feels by telling them how they should feel. According to the implications of the study, we can actually make someone feel worse (stressed) as a result of trying to get them relaxed while their minds are at work. This applies to managers giving performance feedback, parents disciplining children, and coaches working with clients. Healthy people are designed to live and learn by living and learning through the depth and breadth of their emotions. Attempting to alter the truth of what someone is experiencing will inhibit their process. And you won't be seen as helpful.

So, just relax. If you feel like it.

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Why You Should Keep It Simple

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.

Einsteinsimplicity

Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too.

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.

 

 

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Tips To Gauge concerns

Often, when people tell us about something that's worrying them, they talk "around" the topic. It can be difficult for them to get right to the heart of the issue. If you feel that concerns aren't getting out into the open, use questions that will help bring important clues to the surface. 

Questionmark

Four Good Questions to Get You There

1. What do you consider the fundamental thing that we should be trying to achieve?

2. If you had the sole choice, what would you most like to see happen now?

3. Can you think of three areas that concern you about this issue?

4. What else is causing you to worry about this?

Questions help people clarify what may be fuzzy or difficult to discuss. Asking--then listening--will help you become a trusted colleague and interpersonal leader.


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3 Tips For Reducing Conflict

"My idea of an agreeable person is one who agrees with me."--Samuel Johnson

One of the fascinating things about conflict is that it can result from great work or poor work, from good behavior to bad behavior, and from good intentions to nasty ones.

Angermanagementcoupleconflict

Here are three areas of potential conflict and a tip for handling each:

Focus on the Goal, Not the Barrier

Both sides tend to lose sight of what they have in common when conflict starts to slip into a situation. The commonality may be business profitability, teamwork, or maintaining a solid relationship, or the welfare of a group: family, friends, colleagues. 

When you feel conflict creeping in, stop and focus on the goal--not what's getting in the way.

Dealing With A Power Play?

Flight attendants and waitresses have this one down pat. When they get a totally obnoxious customer, they simply ignore the person's demands. Do the same. Inattention is the easiest weapon in your arsenal against power plays--and it conserves your own energy.

Stick to One Issue

When things get heated it's easy to start rattling off a lifetime of sins. Even if past experiences and details are somehow related to the issue at hand, the other person is going to become overwhelmed, confused, and defensive. A valid response is almost impossible for the person to provide you.

Have one conversion about one issue. 




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The Other Person Determines What's "Fair"

You and I have seen this; and, we've done it as well:

You graduate from college and suddenly start ranting about how "all the good jobs" go to people with experience--people who are older and who've been around longer. 

Fast forward to your 'forties': "All the good jobs are being given to young people fresh out of school. Our management figured out they can hire them for less and save money." 

Pick any scenario in life: When your income is lower than you'd like, it's, "Tax the wealthier even more."

Voila! After a  bump in your employment situation, you discover you are in a new tax bracket. "Hmm, what are all these social programs my taxes are paying for? Can't people figure out how to 'get a life' like we did? And man, the salaries of the government workers are way high for what they do, there's no accountability, and everything looks mismanaged."

The-pot-of-gold
 

What's Fair?

"Fair" is, and always will be, determined by one's own situation, sense of (or lack of) personal responsibility, worldview, and values. I just came from a meeting where a middle manager who was transferred lamented her time at the current location. Why? The office was "small" and had only one window. In comes the new manager and shouts about how thrilled he is that his office has a window. "The last building was originally a warehouse and there just wasn't much window space to be had. This is great!"

The issue of perspective knows no organizational limits. The CEO of a client organization shared a similar incident when, due to the economic conditions, he downsized the physical space in order to use the money to save some jobs. The response of those involved: "I'm an executive; since when do executives share office space?" He reminded them that they could opt for another alternative to help him reduce costs.

Perspective defines the meaning of "fair" in any situation. Before making a change of any sort, discuss the reasons with everyone involved and intentionally address the notion of "fair." Let people know what you're trying to accomplish and why it's important. Listen for ways to accomplish the goal that may have escaped you and include them if they meet the criteria. Then, remember this:

It still won't "seem" fair to 100% of those involved because of their beliefs about "how things should be." In fact, some people will  be impacted negatively. However, most will ultimately respect you for "being just" in how you dealt with the situation.

Life Lesson #1: There is some percentage of people who believe that they are always victims. You won't ever change that. You move on; they won't.

Life Lesson #2: Life isn't fair. You don't have the power to make it that way even if you want to. 

Life Lesson #3: "Fair" is a somewhat juvenile notion. As an adult and a leader, you want to begin thinking about what is "Just." How can you ensure that all people are shown respect and dealt with even-handedly in the most difficult situations?

photo attribution: the very amusing folks with fun product at www.verydemotivational.com/

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The Seven Universal Emotions

This is useful to everyone, especially in a career world that is so overwhelmingly global.

You'll find "experts" on body language and rants about the meaning of this gesture or that one. Much of this is true, with one huge caveat: you have to be patient and carefully synthesize the totality of the gestures and mannerisms in order to develop some degree of accuracy.

If you are making a presentation, running a meeting, or in a management discussion, it may be more helpful to know what emotions are universal. This gives you a better chance at narrowing the possibilities of what kinds of responses you are really seeing. So, here goes.

The Seven "Universal" Emotions

These are common throughout all people and cultures:

  • anger     
  • contempt
  • disgust
  • fear
  • happiness
  • sadness
  • surprise

GesturesHere's where it gets tricky:

There are 10,000 different facial expressions. About 3000 of these facial expressions are relevant to emotion and most people use only 50-60 in normal conversation. Those 50-60 do relate to the seven universal emotions.

These expressions can be "macro" expressions which last 1-3 seconds or even longer. An example would be a smile. The question: "Is the smile real or fake?" If fake, what does that mean? (Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar; people simply want to be polite).

We also make micro expressions that give up our more hidden feelings. These are like reflexes, because it's very difficult to stop them from happening since they are part of our brain's hard-wiring. That's why we get a "feeling" when we watch small discrepancies between someone's words and their expression.

These expressions last only 1/25th of a second. (That is faster than an eye-blink). Most people can't pick up micro expressions consciously. When viewed on film and played as slower speeds, these expressions look just like macro expressions. Many homicide detectives do this. If you don't happen to be looking for a serial killer, it's still a great way to watch what signals you give off when you are speaking or running a meeting.

How to Use This

The seven universal emotions are the ones that are most important to you. You want to know whether someone is angry, happy, etc., with your interaction. Memorize the list (or carry a cheat sheet) and increase your awareness of these.

Do: When you think you have enough visual information to believe that the person--or people--are, say, "surprised", don't make the assumption that you are correct. Instead, matter-of-factly state your observation: "You know, I'm watching the response to this slide and am getting the sense that maybe you are a bit surprised. Is that so?" This will lead to affirmation or will yield other responses that will help you--and them--stay or get on track. 

Don't: Try to be magically clever and tell them  you know how they feel. The last time you did that with your spouse or significant other, how'd that work for you?

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Emotions, Work, and Engaged Employees

"Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things."
Denis Diderot
French author and  philosopher  (1713 - 1784)
Is It OK to Be Outwardly Passionate at Work?

I don't know how to separate the idea of being "engaged" from being "emotionally involved."

It's consistent with who I am and may be true of you, too.

But I'm thinking, "Steve, when was the last time you heard a client plead for emotional involvement?"

If there is an Employee Engagement! battle cry emanating from boardrooms worldwide, there's also a potential deal-breaker waiting in the wings. It's the uneasy directive you've heard in business meetings when people really get involved, and it goes like this:

"Now let's not be emotional. We are rational people who should behave rationally."

Great. Excuse me while I sat back and concentrate on becoming dispassionately engaged while you put up another 27-bullet PowerPoint slide.

Apparently It Is Not Ok

I Googled the phrase "emotions at work" to see what we'd come up. Here is a snapshot of the results:

Emotionsatwork_2

Have a look at the titles listed. They view emotions as negative, something to be controlled, or something to "deal with."

I'll agree that no one wants an out-of-control wing-nut dominating a meeting. But is this  the  global business  approach to the lifeblood of humans?

I'm throwing down the gauntlet. Is it just me, or do we need to lighten up and genuinely accept people for who they are? That includes their enthusiasm, excitement, anger, disappointment, and all of the other normal and healthy emotions that are attached to a change, idea, or new initiative.

I hope that organizations who are proud of their diversity initiatives are equally as understanding of the deeper, common drives found in all of us.

Engagement depends upon it.

What do you think?!

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Reconcile Your Relational Accounts

Reconcile: 1 a : to restore to friendship or harmony <reconciled the factions> b : settle, resolve <reconcile differences> 2 : to make consistent or congruous <reconcile an ideal with reality. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.

You and I wouldn't think about going through life without reconciling our bank accounts, ensuring that   Reconcile_CC deposits, withdrawals, and balances are accurate. We know that unreconciled accounts can lead to overdraft charges and painful penalties. So we do our best to sit down, sort through the facts and figures, and when we see an error we do what it takes to reconcile the account. The longer we hold off, the more we risk creating a financial deficit.

 Workplace Reconciliation

The same dynamic holds true for on-the-job accounts: relationships. We talk about the importance of credibility, integrity, influence, and trust. But do we take the time to sit down and reconcile real and perceived wrongs with the people whose trust we need and value?

I'm seeing a couple of workplace phenomena that demand relational reconciliation in order to move ahead free, unencumbered, and "in relationship":

1. The protracted economic situation, along with its uncertainty (we want control) and attendant downsizing, is prompting normally relaxed people at all levels to lose their cool. Things are being said and done "in the moment" that are leading to disciplinary action and strained relations between people who have to work closely together to "get it done." Intervening to stop "it" and take disciplinary action is the right thing to do. However, although it stops the undesirable behavior, it doesn't re-start the relationship in a satisfying way to all those involved.

2. 360 Feedback. The Merriam-Webster definition #2 above mentions reconciling an ideal with a reality. That's what 360 Feedback is all about: surfacing any differences between intentions and actual impact. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a stack of 360 comments that were a total (negative) surprise, it's easy to feel "put upon" and defensive. It's equally easy to want to go on the offensive and even to make a biting remark or two about the results.

What To Do

Both instances demand a follow-up session, albeit a bit different for each.

In example 1, someone did something offensive. That means, when things cool down, it's important for the individual to sit down with any others involved and:

a. Admit the error in judgment and the ensuing behavior

b. Apologize

c. Ask for forgivenessReconciliation

Those who were impacted need to:

a. Acknowledge that it was hurtful, and how, without belaboring the point. (The worst thing that can happen is saying nothing at all or "Oh, that's ok; it wasn't that bad." It was, or you wouldn't be there.

b. Thank the person for caring enough to take time to reconcile the relationship.

Both parties then need to express (if truthful) the wish to move on together and restore a mutually respectful working relationship.

Example 2 is a bit different, yet still requires a conversation. When people take time to offer feedback, especially the kind that requires numerical ratings and narratives, they've made an investment. Like corporate surveys, participants want to know the outcome and what, if anything, is likely to change.

For the sake of example, let's say a manager has received in-depth feedback from direct reports. A follow-up session would have this kind of framework:

a. Thank the people for their willingness to invest in his/her development.

b. Share the over-arching themes--not the details--of the data.

c. Acknowledge that there are clearly areas for development. Ask for any needed clarification and suggestions for specific changes that would lead to improved performance.

d. At the next regularly scheduled meeting, take time at the outset to let the direct reports know what the focus of the changes will be, after considering their suggestions. Ask for verbal reinforcement  when a change is seen. Likewise, if something isn't happening as it should, invite continued reminders, especially "in the moment."

Healthy workplaces require healthy relationships. What's happening in your working world where reconciliation could move people, and the organization, toward a better place?






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Are You Grateful Enough To Be Happy?

What do you do when surprised with a gift?

And what if it's at work?

Yesterday I was getting a tour of a corporate university when my hostess, the VP of Learning, was approached by a group of 5 employees. The next thing I knew, one of the guys was reading a short, heartfelt note of thanks from the group for her learning leadership, followed by the presentation of a small gift.

I moved back a few steps so they could savor the moment together. It was clearly a total surprise to the VP. What surprised me was how quickly and deeply she expressed her gratitude, and how articulate she was. It was also more than I think I could offer, given the same set of circumstances. After the group left she continued to beam and openly, but humbly, verbalize her feelings.

Gratitude and Gender

Gratitude--the emotion of joy and thankfulness when responding to receiving a gift--turns out to be one of the foundational ingredients for a good life. This comes from Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University. In a recent issue of Journal of Personality, Kashdan noted  the research revealed gender plays a role. Apparently, men are much less likely to feel and express (my italics) gratitude than women. 

No doubt women everywhere are now going, "We already did that research."

In one study, Kashdan interviewed both college-aged students and older adults. He asked them to describe, then evaluate, a recent instance in which they received a gift.

Thank-you What did he find?

Compared with men, women reported feeling less of an obligation and higher levels of gratitude when presented with a gift. Additionally, older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift-giver was another man.

Kashdan: “The way that we are socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults. Since men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being.”

He also says that if he had to cite three factors that are essential for creating happiness and meaning in life they would be meaningful relationships, gratitude, and living in the present moment with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

What Does This Mean At Work?

Surveys consistently show that employees often say they don't receive any kind of recognition for a job well done. In many instances, survey data show that some bosses take the posture: "Why would I "recognize" you? That's why you get a paycheck."

Maybe there's more to this than just a lack of gratitude. If we follow the research, we're looking at a large portion of the population that may not even feel it to begin with. If this is true, then "a job well-done" is one more thing on the intellectual "checklist-of-life" and not something that will prompt recognition, even though that's all people may really need to get buzzed about their jobs.

So guys, the next time your wife or girl friend tells you what an ungrateful slug you are, at least you can respond with: "Yes, I understand the research indicates you are correct."

Let me know how that one goes.

If you enjoyed this, I think you might also like:

And, if you'd like to learn more about the research above, Professor Kashdan has written a book titled “Curious?,” which outlines ways people can enhance and maintain the various aspects of well-being.


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What About Self-Deception At Work?

You know about this.

You're at work and Jerry in Marketing is a pain in the butt. Jerry got 87 pieces of 360 feedback that told him he is a pain in the butt. What does Jerry say?

"I am committed to my belief system."

In Jerry's case, that appears to be some secret code phrase for "Regardless of what you show me, I will ignore your evidence and bless you with my unbending wonderfulness."

When asked about the 87 pieces of consistent feedback, Jerry laments that he is misunderstood. By 87 people. All the time.

Self-deception The Truth About Self-Deception

Thankfully, WE aren't like Jerry. Or are we?

The folks at one of my faves, PsyBlog, tell us:

". . .it's not hard to spot the tell-tale symptoms of self-deception in other people. So perhaps we are also deceiving ourselves in ways we can't clearly perceive? But is that really possible and would we really believe the lies that we 'told' ourselves anyway? That's what Quattrone & Tversky (1984) explored in a classic social psychology experiment published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology."

If you want to understand more about the ease of self-deception, read The Truth About Self-Deception.

The conclusion:

"This experiment is neat because it shows the different gradations of self-deception, all the way up to its purest form, in which people manage to trick themselves hook, line and sinker. At this level people think and act as though their incorrect belief is completely true, totally disregarding any incoming hints from reality."

Now, send the link to Jerry in Marketing. (I kept one for myself, too).
__________________________________

Suggestion from Dr. Peter Vajda at SpiritHeart:

"Some folks might also want to read the Arbinger Institute's book, Leadership and Self Deception. For folks who think, "How can I be (part of) the problem - at work, a home, at play and in relationship - this is an eye-opening, tug-on-the-sleeve journey to self awareness.

The real problem with self deception is that, being "blind" to the truth, none of the solutions we bring to the table ever work. How could they?

When we blame, we blame because of ourselves, not because of others - the crux of self-deception - a harsh reality to explore for many. If we stare into that mirror long enough, we'll see its true reflection."

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Leadership: You'll Know Them When They Know You

Do people at work know who you really are?

Do you see the people around you clearly enough to know who they really are?

Whoareyou? I was thinking about the things an executive coach and advisor really does--or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

If that doesn't sound very "business-like," it probably isn't in the traditional sense of "business-like."

And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the "people are our most important asset" blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures.Then they sign on with high hopes.

But what happens down the road that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for "talent?" Weren't those people talented when they were hired?

This Is What I See

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual's contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance--and then receiving orders to "close the gaps." I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical--but good--teaching, only to go back to work and say "what do I actually do with that?"

In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character, the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap."

Here are my thoughts as a result:

1. The character issue
can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly- valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get an objective third party to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn skills. But does the day-to-day interaction at work encourage and reward healthy relationships? A manager with a coaching/relational approach can set the tone for how things get done and how people are expected to interact in the process

3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. Neither immediately changes my own behavior very much. But I learn ways to think differently and more clearly. Then, when presented with an opportunity to actually do what was taught, the education leads to application. People have the most chance of bumping up their game when given a chance to discuss and apply new knowledge right away.

Manager As Coach

Managers can coach effectively when they see their people clearly because they've built relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don't have the time or inclination, then they need to get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It's probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

What to Do:

If you want your talent to be valued, you've got to let people know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

If you are a manager, be intentional about "seeing clearly." If it's a little difficult for you, get some help.

You and I wouldn't build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.

As always: weigh in. Share your thoughts on clarity, talent, and building people by seeing  yourself--and them- clearly. Let the community learn from what you've learned. Click on Comments and join the discussion.

How about related reading? Thought you'd never ask.

  • Hmm. "Who Do You Love?" has Mike Henry, Sr. exploring who companies really put first.



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Bring Your Emotions To Work

Workplaces are filled with people urging you to "Stay rational" and, by all means, "Don't get emotional."

That's just not sound advice. They  have a significant effect on us, but to what end?

Call To Action

Emotions prompt you to act. Without them you wouldn't do much, including survive.

When you start to feel an emotion your muscles tense or relax; blood vessels dilate or contract. What you feel emotionally produces a related physical response. As a result, emotions can make us feel uncomfortable or comfortable, sending signals to urgently do something or to stay in our comfort zones.

What Happens On The Inside?

In trying to understand a situation or make a decision, emotions help you deduce whether what you have concluded is a good idea. When you think about something that contradicts your values, your emotions will signal the contradiction. When thinking about something that could hurt you, your emotions will tell you that this is not a good idea. In fact: simply imagining what might happen sparks your emotions in ways that can lead to better decisions.

How You Signal Your Social World

Emotions Body language is very, very real, although the accuracy of interpretation by others is less than scientific. The fact is, you and I display our inner emotions on our outer bodies. Your face alone contains about 90 muscles, 30 of whose sole purpose is sending emotional signals to other people.

Unless you are playing poker these signals can be unbelievably useful because they help others decide how to behave towards us. If someone appears angry, then hassling them or trying to get an agreement at that moment is probably not a good idea. If they look fearful you could offer help or support, leading to an enhanced relationship.

So?

Everyone wants to be influential in some way. Cutting off or ignoring emotions at work actually reduces the chance of making effective decisions (ignoring the inner-twinge could be costly) and connecting with your boss and colleagues. They've  each got 30 facial muscles designed to provide you with reading material--heck, that's easier than War and Peace.

Don't worry about always reading the emotion perfectly. What others want to know is that you recognize something is going on, you aren't making judgments, and you are there as another human being if something is needed.

Finally: stay in tune with your own emotions. They're designed to tell you something is happening on the inside and you need to pay attention.

These are the original text messages of the heart and soul. At minimum, keep your inner-iPhone on vibrate.

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The Act of Noticing

While everyone is blogging, Twittering or tweeting, linking in, booking their faces, and coming up with other digital ways to "connect", it would be good to ask: "Am I too busy to notice?"

I bookmarked an article last week that included solid research about the bulk of the population preferring to buy goods and services through face-to-face contact. Now I can't find it because I was so darned connected online I didn't actually pay attention to the title or where I filed it.

This leads into the video below. I was reminded of Emotional Intelligence pioneer Daniel Goleman's TED talk a couple of years ago. If you want to know the connectedness between emotions, business, and "noticing", this will be time very well spent. Close your door. Now. Tell you're boss you are doing professional development. You are.

( "All Things Workplace" has been selected as one of the 10 finalists for the 2009 Best of Leadership Blogs competition hosted by the Kevin Eikenberry Group. It's an honor to be selected. If you are interested in voting for your favorite, please vote at Best Leadership Blog 2009 by July 31st.)

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Change How You Deal With Difficult People

I've been presenting a program for clients on "How To Deal With Difficult People" for more than 20 years.

It sounds kind of grim but is really a lot of fun. Why?

Because everyone has someone who "bugs" them. And, when they think long and hard about it, what bothers people most is actually something they really don't like about themselves. There are lots of ways to have fun with this and learn a lot at the same time without navel-gazing.

What I like best about the approach we've developed is that it isn't about coping with jerks. Why settle for coping? It doesn't really change anything.

Difficultpeople Do You Want To Change Something?

Good. Then here's a little synopsis that I hope will help.

1. What really drives your blood pressure north?

Identify the triggers are that push your buttons by thinking about past experiences in which your "favorite"  person finally got to you.

What did they do?  That’s different than why it bothered you. Simply identify their actual behavior.  Was it the way they approached you? Looked at you?  How did they look at you?
Maybe it was a certain voice quality or tone of voice?

2. How did you react?

Do you immediately blame them for how you feel?  Do you act distracted or quickly find a distraction? Disavow what’s really going on? When they do their "special" thing, what do you do in response?


3. What do you want from yourself? 

What’s the very best you can bring to the situation? Regardless of what they did, what would you do to be delighted with yourself after the interaction?

4.  What do you really want from them? 

Yeah, I know: "Stop that stuff!"

Not going to happen. So, think about this relationship the way the Cheerios people do on their nutrition label. "What is the MDR (minimum daily requirement) of behavior you can hope for and accept?
Then start expecting nothing more. (it's quite free-ing, really).

5.  Has someone else learned a way to deal with this person?

 How do they do it?  Who might know how to do it?  Describe your situation in a way that combines "behavior-then-how-I-feel." No need to dump on the offender; besides, it makes you less attractive and less of a good candidate for help.

When you've reached a point where you have an approach, use it. We train our muscle memories to play tennis, golf, and other sports in ways that become unconscious.  You can train your nervous system in the same way. Think about this: if you do just one thing differently you may change the entire pattern.

Most importantly: Life is not what happens to us. It's how we respond to what happens to us.

And you are in charge of your responses.

Go for it!

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Performance Tip: Recognize The Talent You've Got

When I check the keyword searches that land people here, a lot of them have to do with "find my strengths" or "how do I manage talented people?"

People at work appear invested in clarifying their own strengths and understanding the inherent talent in others. If that's so, I was wondering why there is so much angst about retention. It seems that people would be committed for the long term if their strengths and talents are being valued.

The Managerial Equivalent of "Your Lips Say 'Yes' But There's 'No-No' In Your Eyes"

There is at least one reason why some people--including managers-- are shopping their resumes. It has to do with the distinction between advocating development and then doing the opposite.

Here's a real life example:

Luke (not his real name) is an operations manager at one of my client companies. He's experienced and has been in the manufacturing industry for 20+ years. He is the most well-read client ever. Whenever I see him, he waxes poetically about the wonderful "new" managerial ideas he's picked up from the most recent leadership books he's read.

One of those ideas had to do with recognizing someone's small successes and following through with verbal encouragement or even a small reward (lunch, movie tickets, a $25 gift certificate. . .) Better yet, acknowledge the person's fete during a regular departmental meeting. He also talked about the importance of those ideas during a meeting with his supervisors.

But he wouldn't do any of those.

I asked him why not.

His reply "I'm not going to spend time rewarding or telling someone how good they are if the company is already paying them a salary. They are supposed to do good work."

He doesn't have the same approach with his kids. I've seen him. He acknowledges them when they've succeeded at something. Anything. And he does it spontaneously.

What the heck happens in life(?) between:

Encourage_4

and

Gap_2.

Every day we're all trying to learn or do something new. Let's be honest: part of our day is spent being a kid again when it comes to struggling with a new problem that needs a solution. And we could use a few encouraging words of recognition when we demonstrate a talent that helps the organization.

("Gee, that felt good. I think I'll do it again!)

What would a well-known, successful business person say about the importance of encouragement?

"My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me."
~ Henry Ford

What Do Our Brains Say About Encouragement?

According to the ATW resident neuro-gurette, Dr. Ellen Weber, brainpower is lost to common critiques. In this instance, the absence of acknowledgment can easily turn into the perception of a "critique." For those who can't seem to get their hearts in gear, maybe a look at how serotonin builds better businesses will offer an intellectual bridge to encouraging action.

What's going on at your workplace when it comes to recognizing and acknowledging people's strengths and talents?
_________________________________

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Looking for Hope? Stop Putting Things Off

Hope - "a confident feeling about what will happen in the future."

If you aren't feeling confident about some aspect of your work life, career, or business, chances are it's because you aren't acting to make it hopeful. You can't control what's on the news or in the news, but you can control what's in your news.

Hopesignpost Hope and Action

Psychologically, Charles Richard  Snyder characterized hope as the will and the way to achieve your goals. More specifically, he defines  hope "as the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals, and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways" .

What does that really say?

  • The first part involves feeling capable to create a reasonable plan of action (the "way")
  • The second highlights the motivation to follow the plan (the "will").

Using this line of thought, hope is the opposite of procrastination.

Take action. Even if it isn't perfect, you don't have to get it right you just have to get it going.

Credit where credit is due: I had recalled an article I read some time ago that prompted this particular post. After Googling around, I found it. For the complete research study and the article partly paraphrased here, visit the excellent original by at Psychology Today

________________________________________________

Something special tomorrow. I'm going to be doing a phone interview with Dr. Charles Polk, President of Mountain State University in the morning. Their action-oriented leadership program grabbed my attention because it's really how people "learn leadership." So, the post will give you a glimpse into what is happening with leadership education in two ways:

Becky Robinson of Mountain State has done a guest post for me that is to-the-point and explains their approach. I'll add some of the interview with Dr. Polk and, "Voila!"--some excitement about leadership education and its possibilities.

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Honesty, Boldness, and Sins of Omission

Do you ever think back on a situation and ask yourself, "Why didn't I say_______?"

We humans have a tendency to want to make things "nice". So we rationalize by committing a sin of omission: not telling the whole truth.

How does this happen?I

There are certain people in our lives who make us feel like being completely honest would harm the relationship with them.  So we smile and hold back the tougher parts of the truth. Then we walk away having to live with a sense of nagging  disappointment.

But it can have even greater consequences.

Truthconsequences Why?

Because people are looking for boldness. (Aren't you?). We look for people who put a stake in the ground  and say, "This is the way it is." People want the truth because they actually can deal with it.  Heck, it's easier than dealing with a lie, isn't it?

I know what you are thinking: "If I tell (fill in the blank) what I really think, she won't like me anymore."

1. How do you know for sure?

2. Do you want to spend your time with colleagues, a boss, or others who want you to be someone else so that they can be comfortable? (It will drain you and make you unbelievably ineffective).

3. How long will it be before the entire truthfulness of the issues emerges and you look like the one who was untruthful?!

When you have a less than "real" relationship with someone who has a lot of power over you, the idea of putting that relationship at risk is scary. So it's important to deliver the truth with respect for the other person involved.

What You Can Do

Here are three sentences that model some ways to do this:

"I have some real concerns about our working relationship..."

"I sensed your frustration in that meeting, and here's how it impacted me. It may have impacted others in the same way"

"Let me tell you something that you may not have heard before..."

Honest relationships are energizing; hedging your bets will drain you.

The next time an opportunity comes up to be bold with the truth, remember that you have a choice.

That choice will live with you for a long time.  

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When People Want "It" Now!

When "Change the Right Thing" Meets "Please, Just Do Something!"

Have you ever been involved with any of these in your organization?

  • Merger/Acquisition
  • Severely declining financial performance
  • Arrival of new CEO

Armchair experts love to talk about employee resistance to change.

But what about the case where employees know something different has to happen in their organization and are getting anxious and weary from waiting? They've reached a point where the anticipation is a little too much to take and begin to wonder what the CEO is actually doing.

Is their CEO oblivious to the organizational dynamics?

In my consulting life I haven't met a CEO yet who didn't understand what people were probably thinking and feeling. So let's explore some of the valid reasons why the above scenario can happen.

Before laying out how this situation comes to pass, here is a graphic to help keep us focused:

Change6_102207001

There Are No Victims or Villains

There are simply people trying to get what they need.

The CEO

What do you and I do with a new situation?

The same as the CEO.

We gather information, ask advice, evaluate the information, check our resources, look at the options, and evaluate the risks and benefits of each. We also evaluate how each option will impact each of our constituencies.

In the case of the CEO, those constituencies may include stockholders, directors, customers, employees,  vendors, local and national governments, regulators...a mind-boggling array of interest groups that have to be satisfied financially, legally, and personally.

In the case of mergers, acquisitions, and turnarounds, there may be negotiations taking place that cannot be discussed due to confidentiality agreements and, in the U.S., related SEC regulations.

The result: You may have a CEO who knows everything there is to know about what, how, and when to communicate--but is not allowed to do so under penalty of law. Most people don't realize that CEO's often carry the burden of silence when they would like nothing more than to sit down with their people and explain what is unfolding.

The Employees

The world abhors a vacuum. Employees want to fill that vacuum by getting direction and information.  When they don't, the first thing most wonder about is the "leadership:"

Why aren't they doing something?

Why aren't they saying something?

Should I even stick around or is it time to shop my resume?

What to do?

This is one of those situations where history and corporate culture can help carry the day or lose it. CEO's and organizations with a strong track record of trust and integrity will find that they've earned a longer time line for ambiguity than those who haven't paid attention to issues of corporate and personal character.

If you find yourself in this situation as an employee, here are some suggestions:

1. Don't start off by assuming that silence means the worst. If you are used to a high degree of communication, it probably does mean that something is taking place behind the scenes. But it doesn't mean that it's bad. If you start thinking negatively it will drive you crazy...and won't do a thing to help the situation.

2. Do ask questions, such as "Is there a legitimate reason why communications and information have decreased?" CEO's that I know will answer that question in a way that sends the correct message but does not violate any agreements or laws. However, don't expect to get any information. And don't keep probing.

3. At a time when the inclination may be to slack off on performance, do just the opposite:  be a star. If there is a merger or acquisition and headcount is an issue, make sure your head is seen as firmly attached to the rest of you. It could increase your chances of remaining that way.

You may not have control over what's happening in your organization but you do have control over how you choose to respond. If your company has a solid history of dealing honestly with people, chances are that isn't going to change now.

And often, effective leadership means thoughtfully, quietly, and methodically affirming the right thing to do on behalf of hundreds or thousands of people. That may just require a little more time than usual.

What's your experience?

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Use Competence, Not Dominance

Communication Alert: A harsh, one-way leadership style just doesn't do what's valued now: building a good rapport with workers.

Little_girl_body_language Everyone needs to brush up on actions that imply ability and competence (called "task cues" in the psych trade) and play down their dominance cues (actions that imply control and threat), reports a team of psychologists headed by James E. Driskell, Ph.D.

 In one study, 159 college students, male and female, listened to the pitches of task-oriented speakers and the same arguments from dominance-oriented speakers, male and female. Almost everyone thought men and women who exhibited task cues were more competent, group-oriented, and likable. Those showing dominance cues were thought of as self-oriented and disliked.

For a corporate decision-making group sitting around a table in a board meeting, poise, attitude, and approach matter more than most people realize.

Here's the rundown on which behaviors they say will earn you respect and which won't:


Task Cues

  • Rapid speech rate
  • Eye contact
  • Verbal fluency
  • Choosing the head of the table
  • Fluid gestures
  • Well-moderated voice tone

Dominance Cues

  • Loud voice
  • Angry tone
  • Finger pointing
  • Lowering eyebrows
  • Stiff posture
  • Forceful gestures

What do you think?

Bonus: Check this related article at Slow Leadership.

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Speaking Out About Silence At Work

"How many meanings can silence have? Let me count the ways.'
--Arnold Shakespeare, little-known descendant of The Bard

Silence Is Not Golden Unless You Are A New Parent looked at the danger of assuming--or wanting to assume agreement--in a meeting room filled with silence. Then, we rattled off a number of meanings we think are important for workplace dwellers to understand.

Naturally, my list was incomplete. So, the reader community chimed in with other reasons that are important to tuck away in your mental messenger bag. (Hey, we could have said briefcase but we are sooo 2.0).

No_talking Readers Say This About Silence

Chris Witt: "People disagree with what you've said and they don't know how or don't feel safe to voice their disagreement. Some people equate disagreement with conflict, and hate conflict."

Higher ups ask for feedback/questions when they really don't want it. (My paraphrase): People are accused of being disrespectful or not being team players . The crime? They put the boss on the spot by asking (unwanted) questions during a public meeting.

Higher ups blame poor communication on subordinates. One such case was the result of a president complaining about poor presentations. Yet he constantly interrupted the speakers, asked questions they couldn't possibly answer, and was rude and intimidating. Who would want to talk to him?

Dr. Peter Vajda: "Then there are those who feel emotionally lacking, deficient or insufficient as a result of some invidious comparison they are making between themselves and the speaker as a result of what they've heard or what they've seen. They may feel jealous, insecure, angry at themselves (depressed) for being 'stupid'."

Wally Bock: "This is aggravated by the concept taught in many sales training programs that 'silence means consent'." 

Hayli at Transition Concierge: My sales training was similar. . .Essentially, make your proposal and then wait for the silence to force the prospective customer into starting a conversation. We were taught that he who talks first "loses".

HR Jobs: "People may have lost interest and don't want to speak as they think it will look like a sign of interest."

Rodney Johnson: "Too often silence becomes a Silent Problem. When unleashed without warning, it screams."

What To Take Away?

We don't know the meaning of silence at a given moment, because there are as many reasons as there are individuals in the room.

What to do?

I'll repeat the advice from the previous article: Simply ask. Tell the person--or group--that you want to understand correctly rather than make an error in judgment. Then be quiet until someone speaks up. I find it useful to silently count to 10 or even 15. 

Bonus Tomorrow!

Kindred spirit Mary Jo Asmus looks at the flip side of silence with her guest post "When Silence Is Golden". Be sure to stop by.

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Silence Is Not Golden Unless You Are A New Parent

If you make a statement that is met with silence, the last thing you want to believe is that you have agreement.

It's easy to want to assume agreement because it allows us to move on and quickly avoid the potential for dis-agreement, conflict and, unfortunately, the truth about what people are really thinking and feeling.

Silence-is-mountain-lions

Here are just some of the meanings that may lurk behind silence:

  • People are too angry to speak.
  • People are confused but don't want to appear "stupid" by asking a question. Why? Because as they look around, no one else is asking a question and each is assuming that all the rest are silent as a result of understanding.
  • People are reflecting on what you said and haven't yet processed it completely.
  • People who are counterdependent are actually rebuking you and protecting themselves with silence.
  • Those who really weren't listening anyway don't want to do anything that will cause them to be asked a question. They may even nod slightly in the hope that you will "go away".
  • People are, in fact, in total agreement with you and thinking more about your conversation/presentation.

(How many more can you add? Do send in your cards and letters via comments).

Think about this: the person in a relationship who maintains silence grabs the power. It's not healthy but it's a fact.

When you encounter silence, name it and neutralize it by saying something like this: "We just spent 45 minutes discussing Project Q. I gave you my take, but what you are thinking--pro and con--is important. Let's discuss it." Then, sit there and wait for the discomfort of prolonged silence to force the conversation to begin.

It will.

For more about the dynamics of talking and silence, check out Nothing Happens Until People Talk plus Employee Needs, Silent Communication, and What To Do.

BTW: I gave you my take, but what are you thinking?



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Four Ways To Spot Reduced Trust

We're all looking for trusting relationships to build a strong foundation for our businesses, careers, or favorite cause.

When things don't "feel" right at a gut level it's easy to say, "Let's do a survey and find out if something is going on with our customer/employee/donor relationships." That's both expensive and time consuming. By the time you get the results, here's what has happened:

1. The fact that people have participated in a survey automatically raises the expectation that something different is going to happen as a result. If nothing different happens, then trust diminishes.

2. People expect to at least hear the results. Again: if the results aren't shared, people wonder why they spent their time and energy trying to be helpful. And, they wonder what was so horrendous that it couldn't be discussed. A double-dip of trust reduction.

3. Unless you do a survey quickly and then respond quickly with the results, enough time will have passed that the issues impacting the survey may no longer be relevant.

Trust: Diagnose This!

It's helpful to learn to recognize for yourself the signs that things aren't quite right in the "trust" department. You can do an accurate diagnosis as the first step to getting back on track with your relationships--on and off the job.

Gauge Hedging Their Bets

Hedging is placing a bet elsewhere so that if a current proposal or situation fails, people have other alternatives. That certainly makes sense on the surface. The problem is that hedging becomes a distraction. It takes a lot of time for people to develop a Plan B. If you think about such instances in your own life, the alternative can start to look more interesting than the current assignment. The result:  You begin to see people putting less effort into the work at hand.

Lesson: When you see people talking more about options that protect themselves vs. actions that achieve the communal goal, you are seeing a lack of confidence and trust. 

Emotional Distance

Confession: When I don't trust someone, the easiest thing to do is to minimize my contact with them. The payoff is this: I reduce the risk of betrayal, hurt, or other consequences of failed trust.

When a person distances one's self themselves from their  work relationships, they aren't fully engaged. They may be occupied in task-oriented work 100% of time but they aren't contributing with their full potential.

Lesson: If you are a manager and see someone operating in this way, it's time for a quiet talk. That means: Listen. Start off by relating what you see and asking what could be getting in the way of the potential that you've seen demonstrated in the past. Be prepared: It may be you. Listen and hear what is being said. Whatever the issue, thank the person and allow that you need some time to ponder what was said so that it can be addressed in the most helpful way. Then, be sure to follow through.

I'm Outta Here

Leaving might mean finding another job within the company or even leaving the company for seemingly greener pastures. It's also a kind of retribution. "I'll leave you without my skills; then, your lack of trustworthiness will be laid bare for all to see."

Lesson: If one person does a disappearing act yet all is (genuinely) well with everyone else, it may be best to close the book and move on. But when you start to see the resumes hit the street, it's time to talk with each person and determine the underlying issues.

Alliances

When people don't trust someone, it's common for a group to gang up with others who share those sentiments: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend!"  When this happens, you get groups who start hedging and distancing themselves as entire teams or departments. This magnifies the negative impact of those behaviors on the situation.

Lesson: If there's a party and you are the only one not invited, congratulations:  it's probably about you. It's time for a sit-down that may very well call for a great deal of humility on your part and lots of mutual forgiveness to get things back on track.

Note: When you sense any of the above beginning to surface, sit down with people and describe what you are sensing. You may find out you are wrong and that nothing--or something totally different--is happening.

Experience has shown me that good diagnostic skills are the lifeblood of managers everywhere. So is action.

Don't wait until you've confirmed your diagnosis in a thousand different ways. Holding out for perfection may prove you correct but you'll show up just in time for the autopsy.

Gotta lay off of those CSI reruns.

Bonus: Apparently the folks at Forbes.com are hot on the trail of the trust thing as well.

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But They're Sooo Intelligent...!

When you are discussing individual performance issues and the last phrase out of someone's mouth is always "Yeah, but (s)he's so intelligent," you have a problem.

For years I've watched clients try to figure out what to do with high potential, poor people-skills managers. Most of the companies I've worked with have invested huge amounts of time, money, coaching, and education in an effort to prompt behavioral change in some "exceedingly intelligent" people. Maybe you've seen the same things.

Do any of these look familiar?

Global Operations Director who hits all of the monetary goals but no one wants to work with him. They don't trust him because he withholds information and doesn't include other managers in decisions that impact how they do their work.

Brain  Brilliant Vice President of Finance who can't conduct meetings, doesn't like to plan, and knows more ways to help the company earn money on its money than its bankers do. Up for promotion for top job. Really doesn't want it. People love working with him because they learn from him. He wants to continue developing investment methods and models.

Director of Regulatory Compliance.
No one explains new (regulated) products to the government better than this guy. So what's the problem? To the company it means the difference between a commercial product or nothing new to sell. His direct reports described their feelings toward him as "hate" (never a real good sign). They say he is a "bully," "condescending," and "has no patience with anyone he thinks is less intelligent than him." When offered the possibility of being a high-level individual contributor, the director said "No. I want to be a manager."

What are we seeing here?

It's actually easy to explain: we simply cannot believe that someone we see as "smart" could actually be so "stupid." What we're doing is responding to a single, outstanding talent or skill and ascribing other attributes to it that we think must certainly be there. We then look at academic credentials and technical performance and believe that, somehow, we must be wrong. (Otherwise why would we have hired the person and promoted them to this point--here it begins to become a little self-defensive but we don't realize it).

Misunderstanding Intelligence

It's easy to make the mistake of believing that making great presentations, investments, operationalAdapting decisions, or engineering breakthroughs is a sign of superior intelligence. And they might, in fact, indicate an outstanding ability to think and reason within given circumstances and topics. However, take a look at just a few definitions from those involved in intelligence testing and research over the years:

"The capacity to learn or to profit by experience."
(Dearborn, 1921)

"A global concept that involves an individual's ability to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with the environment."
(Wechsler, 1958)

"A person possesses intelligence insofar as he had learned, or can learn, to adjust himself to his environment."
(Colvin, cited in Sternberg, 1982, p.30)

Learn, adapt, adjust. None of our managers is either willing, able, or both. So we need to stop praising their "intelligence" and start recognizing an inability or unwillingness to adapt.

What to look for and what to do

If you are trying to manage situations similar to those above, here are some tips from experience:

1. When "intelligence" becomes a mantra after you've coached and counseled a person, you are stuck. Stop looking at where you would like them to be going in the company and start defining what they do well and where they are not developing.

2. When you've defined what they do well, talk with them honestly about where they'll fit best over the long run. Yes, they may not see it that way and leave.

3. When you find that 90% of your energy is spent trying to figure out or explain 10% of your workforce, stop. Look at what you want from performance; compare it with what you are getting; and avoid explaining away the gap. We've all done it. We want people to succeed. And if they are likeable it's even harder. Fact: We aren't being helpful to them or the organization.

4. Bad managers are toxic. It's easy to believe we're dealing with a single performance issue. We're not. Toxic managers are impacting the performance of everyone around them.

5. If you think you can't live without someone, you can. What would you do if, God forbid, they dropped dead tomorrow? It could happen. And life will go on.

What about our friends in the examples?

The Global Operations guru will soon become an individual contributor and technical advisor. It will work well.

Brilliant Finance Whiz has become the Chief Economic Officer (newly created role) of a major global enterprise. His second-in-command, a good manager, got the top job. Everyone is satisfied with the outcome and performance is top-notch all around.

Regulatory Compliance bully: we don't know yet. The company is still willing to invest in professional development.

Do you have a "But they're so intelligent. . ." story? Help the workplace community and send in your story through a Comment or email.

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Bring Your Emotional Awareness To Work

Workplaces are filled with people urging you to "Stay rationale" and, by all means, "Don't get emotional."

That's just not sound advice. They  have a significant effect on us, but to what end?

Call To Action

Emotions prompt you to act. Without them you wouldn't do much, including survive.

When you start to feel an emotion your muscles tense or relax; blood vessels dilate or contract. What you feel emotionally produces a related physical response. As a result, emotions can make us feel uncomfortable or comfortable, sending signals to urgently do something or to stay in our comfort zones.

What Happens On The Inside?

In trying to understand a situation or make a decision, emotions help you deduce whether what you have concluded is a good idea. When you think about something that contradicts your values, your emotions will signal the contradiction. When thinking about something that could hurt you, your emotions will tell you that this is not a good idea. In fact: simply imagining what might happen sparks your emotions in ways that can lead to better decisions.

How You Signal Your Social World

Emotions Body language is very, very real, although the accuracy of interpretation by others is less than scientific. The fact is, you and I display our inner emotions on our outer bodies. Your face alone contains about 90 muscles, 30 of whose sole purpose is sending emotional signals to other people.

Unless you are playing poker these signals can be unbelievably useful because they help others decide how to behave towards us. If someone appears angry, then hassling them or trying to get an agreement at that moment is probably not a good idea. If they look fearful you could offer help or support, leading to an enhanced relationship.

So?

Everyone wants to be influential in some way. Cutting off or ignoring emotions at work actually reduces the chance of making effective decisions (ignoring the inner-twinge could be costly) and connecting with your boss and colleagues. They've  each got 30 facial muscles designed to provide you with reading material--heck, that's easier than War and Peace.

Don't worry about always reading the emotion perfectly. What others want to know is that you recognize something is going on, you aren't making judgments, and you are there as another human being if something is needed.

Finally: stay in tune with your own emotions. They're designed to tell you something is happening on the inside and you need to pay attention.

These are the original text messages of the heart and soul. At minimum, keep your inner-iPhone on vibrate.

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How To Create Creativity

You want to be creative and breed creativity in your workplace, right?

Do you consider yourself to be "creative?"

Ask a group of first-graders, "How many of you are 'creative?' " Watch most of the hands go up. They smile. They show their colorful drawings and finger painting and maybe even compose a song along the way.

What happens when the same question is asked of the same kids a few years later? The responses drop to nearly zero. And the kids are still in elementary school.

Ideadrawingxsmall4 Fast forward to your business meeting. Someone says "Let's get creative about how to grow the market in Asia. We've got until 5 o'clock."

Are you and I seeing the same thing here?

We've got little kids who are convinced they are creative. Then we get bigger little kids who think, "Not so much." Now we've got adults being asked to create and who are sure they aren't creative.

This post is a call for thought, not a rant. (Well, a little one). It seems to me that we have taken an entire population of creative youngsters, told them to color inside the box (or else!), and now tell them to "think outside the box"--(or else!).

Nine things to encourage creativity

Silvano Arieti  wrote a book in 1976 called Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (you can get a used copy through amazon.com). Here are his nine conditions and the reasons why:

1. Aloneness. Being alone allows the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.

2. Inactivity. Periods of time are needed to focus on inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.

3. Daydreaming. Allows exploration of one's fantasy life and venturing into new avenues for growth.

4. Free thinking. Allows the mind to wander in any direction without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or concepts to emerge.

5. State of readiness to catch similarities
. One must practice recognizing similarities and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.

6. Gullibility. A willingness to suspend judgment allows one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.

7. Remembering & replaying past traumatic conflicts. Conflict can be transformed into more stable creative products.

8. Alertness. A state of awareness that permits the person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.

9. Discipline. A devotion to the techniques, logic, and repetition that permit creative ideas to be realized.

So now we go to our boss and say "I'd like to have some extended alone time for inactivity and daydreaming so I can come up with a creative idea for your strategy."

(Please let me know how that conversation goes).

You can act to create creativity

The next time you have charge of a meeting or idea session, how about using some of the above items to lay a foundation for creativity.

  • Build in "alone time" by having people think about the task well in advance.
  • Suspend judgment and encourage the craziest ideas in the room, because
  • Alertness (number 8) will connect the "crazy" dots

I hope you'll use these to be intentional about creativity. It sounds almost like an oxymoron--"intentional creativity"--but according to number 9 it isn't.

Intentional Creativity--that's a lot easier to sell to your boss than some alone time.

Graphic Source: www.creativity-zone.ch/

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I Know You're Smart. Do You Play Well With Others?

"Collaboration is a key driver of overall performance of companies around the world. Its impact is twice as significant as a company’s aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities (strategic orientation) and five times as significant as the external market environment (market turbulence).

As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It’s just that simple.”Collaboration3

That is a pretty powerful claim. It is substantiated by a research study done through a collaborative effort of Frost & Sullivan, Microsoft, and Verizon. 

The researchers created a collaboration index to measure a company’s relative “collaborativeness” based on two main factors:

 
  • An organization’s orientation and infrastructure to collaborate, including collaborative technologies such as audioconferencing, Web conferencing and instant messaging
 
  • The nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organization’s culture and processes that encourage teamwork

Do You Play Well With Others?

This may seem like an abrupt switch from the serious tone of the study. But I needed that kind of data to help lead into an important career trait: playing well with others.

The study is right on target by highlighting the need for the right tools, systems, and culture. Yet it ultimately comes down to the individual. If you work in a global organization, you've got some extra challenges: time zone differences, language differences, cultural differences in what constitutes teamwork...(add your own experience by sending a comment!)

I just spent 3 hours coaching a client who is now forced to deal with a highly intelligent, high-performing manager who isn't viewed as collaborative. By anyone. No one at any of their worldwide locations gave him decent feedback on teamwork and collaboration. And this has been happening for a few years. (He continues to achieve all of the goals set out for him--and no one dislikes him personally.)

His side of the story

I sat down and spoke with the manager some months ago about these perceptions and what that might mean to his career. He understood that people didn't see him as collaborative. His take on it is that they are universally wrong. He communicates when he believes it's necessary. I told him that he had to simply initiate more, share more information--even if it didn't make sense to him--and mend some strained relationships with those who thought he was actually hiding something. He  listened, gave intellectual rebuttals for why that didn't make sense, and chose not to do anything differently.

What happened?

His management career is finished...at least with his current employer. He'll probably have a shot at being an individual contributor in a specific discipline; but upward mobility is no longer a possibility.

Some people burn bridges. He never built them. We should take seriously the lessons we can learn from this real-life situation:

1. Organizations thrive because of collaboration. If you want to be seen as a player, then be one.

2. A high IQ doesn't compensate for low EQ. Your Emotional Quotient--your willingness and ability to relate and connect--can make or break your career.

3. Task results don't always matter if your behavior disrupts the rest of the system.

4. The study I cited noted the importance of processes, systems, and culture. This company's culture valued teamwork. That was one of their systems. Roesler's rule: Unless you have 51% of the vote, don't fight the system. The system ultimately prevails.

Photo source: Pacific Lutheran University

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The Business of Forgiveness

Downsizing. Corruption. Bullying. Harassment. "Do more with less." Reduced benefits. Add to that list some of the people with whom you have to work every day (see Bob Sutton's No Asshole Rule).

There's a lot of opportunity for anger and hurt on the job.

Where you find anger, you find the need for forgiveness.

Why?

It's good for you. For your physical and mental health. For your relationships. For your ability to move on peacefully and productively.

Forgivenesslogo Why forgiveness instead of revenge?

Christina M. Puchalski, M.D. is the Founder and Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine. She says:

"On a personal level, forgiveness of self can help us achieve an inner peace as well as peace with others and with God. Wrongdoing against others and ourselves can result in guilt and resentment.  This can then lead to self-recrimination and self-loathing; it also can create a distance or disconnect from self and others. Resentment can give away to hate and intolerance. Forgiveness is the first stage of self-love and acceptance. It is also the basic building block of loving relationships with others."

It's not the offense. It's your response to it.

I confess, I'm not always a quick-to-forgive person once I've felt "wronged". I give people a very long leash and a long time to "get their act together" if things aren't going well. But there is some point at which I just say "that's it" and cut them off from my life. It is very infrequent, but the pattern is always the same. I decide that the differences are irreconcilable. So, the relationship in its present form is finished.

Does that serve me well?

Only if I genuinely forgive. It is both possible and imperative to do that and, at the same time, acknowledge that the nature of the relationship may not be productive. This is the harder part, I think. It begs the nagging question, "If I can forgive, why can't I just continue?"

Sometimes it's possible. More often, it becomes apparent that I wasn't seeing clearly to begin with and that continuing the relationship--without changing expectations--would not be peaceful or productive for either of us.

Dr. Frederic Luskin specializes in Learning to Forgive. He explains that:

"The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health."

Dr. Luskin's 9 Steps to Forgiveness

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.

2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.

3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the "peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story."

4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes--or ten years ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.

5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body's fight or flight response.

6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize that "unenforceable rules" you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.

8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.

9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

If you would like to explore other resources, check out The Forgiveness Web  and Forgiveness Net.

Think about this today: Your workplace is a web of relationships. Being at peace with them can only make your own life a lot more satisfying.

photo attribution: www.thirdway.com 

 

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Communicating on the Right Wavelength

"The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through."--Sydney J. Harris

Communication: Don't Mix and Match Your Verbal Wardrobe

I want to offer an easy, uncluttered model to use when you want to bump up your communication game.

Kids_talking Think about your levels of interaction on a scale of Nicety all the way to Intimacy. One of the keys to keeping your interactions on target is making sure that you "meet people where they are" and not try to take them where you want to go before they are ready. (They may never be ready).

Here's a way to look at it on five levels of increasing depth:

1. Niceties. "Hey, how are you?"

"Fine,how are you?"

"Ok."

Polite acknowledgment of another person is part of social graciousness. If you or the other person doesn't want to take it any further, that's fine. Just don't mistake it for anything other than what it is.  But don't discount the social importance of niceties, either. It' s amazing how many people get miffed when they offer a "Hey, waddup?" and don't get a response.

2. Facts. If the other person is into facts, stay with the facts until (s)he moves on. If that's where they stay, just ask if there is anything that you should do with those facts.

3. Thoughts and Ideas. These are different from facts. They reflect what's going on inside someone's head. This is also where we get into difficulty by passing judgment on someone in the middle of their personal brainstorm. Stay in non-evaluative brainstorm mode with them.

4. Feelings. When people start expressing how they feel, you've hit a pretty high level on their personal trust scale. The best way to keep it is to acknowledge the legitimacy of how they feel. The best way to lose it is to tell them they shouldn't feel that way.

5. Intimacy. Familiarity that reaches a deeply personal level.

In the workplace you may not reach this level inside the confines of the office building. In fact, it may be totally inappropriate. But highly relational people can have a tendency to unconsciously go here because it's so innately comfortable and meaningful (for them).

I can't tell you the number of coaching/advising engagements I've had with people who have gotten themselves into difficulty at this level. They've said things that were taken as "way too intimate" by others. Fortunately, most well-meaning people "get it" when they are coached regarding the distinctions in levels and how other people may interpret personal warmth or familiarity.

If you want to keep your emloyer--and yourself--out of litigation, save your intimacy-level conversations for home and friends.

Meetthem_blog_070108001

How to Use This?

The next time you're engaged in a discussion, pay attention to where the other person is operating on the "depth" chart.

1. Listen and stay with them.

2. If you want to move from one level to another, say something like: "We've been talking about the factual data related to the Romanian project. Would you be willing to hear some thoughts and ideas I have about this?"

They'll tell you if they need to play with the facts some more. And your question will be appreciated because it acknowledges that you've really heard them and aren't going to automatically step on their "stuff."

3. Building trust takes place at levels 3 and 4. The more time you can spend there, the closer the working relationship can become.

Share this with the people around you. It may get you out of "mix" and into "match."

What do you think?

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But (S)He's So Intelligent!

Brain_diagram_1 When individual performance issues are being discussed and the conversation consistently ends with, "Yeah, but (s)he's so intelligent," there is a problem.

For years I've watched clients try to figure out what to do with high potential, growth-stunted people. Most of the companies I've worked with have invested huge amounts of time, money, coaching, and education in an effort to prompt behavioral change in some "exceedingly intelligent" people. You've no doubt seen the same thing.

Do any of these situational factors look familiar?

Global Operations Director who hits all of the monetary goals but no one wants to work with her. They don't trust her because she withholds information and doesn't include other managers in decisions that impact how they do their work.

Brilliant Vice President of Finance who can't conduct meetings, doesn't like to plan, and knows more ways to help the company earn money on its money than its bankers do. Up for promotion for top job. Really doesn't want it. People love working with him because they learn from him. He wants to continue developing investment methods and models.

Director of Regulatory Compliance.
No one explains new (regulated) products to the government better than this guy. So what's the problem? To the company it means the difference between a commercial product or nothing new to sell. His direct reports described their feelings toward him as "hate" (never a real good sign). They say he is a "bully," "condescending," and "has no patience with anyone he thinks is less intelligent than him." When offered the possibility of being a high-level individual contributor, the director digs in his heels and says, "No. I want to be a manager."

What are we seeing here?

It's actually easy to explain: we simply cannot believe that someone who is "intelligent" could actually act so "stupid." What we're doing is responding to a single, outstanding talent or skill automatically ascribing  other attributes that we think must certainly be there. We then look at academic credentials and technical performance and believe that, somehow, we must be wrong. (Otherwise, why would we have hired and then promoted the person? Here it becomes a little self-defensive on our part, but who wants to look at that?:-)

It's Not Smart to Misunderstand Intelligence

It's easy to make the mistake of believing that making great presentations, investments, operationalAdapting decisions, or engineering breakthroughs is a sign of superior intelligence. These certainly indicate an outstanding ability to think and reason within given circumstances and topics. However, take a look at just a few definitions from those involved in intelligence testing and research over the years:

"The capacity to learn or to profit by experience."
(Dearborn, 1921)

"A global concept that involves an individual's ability to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with the environment."
(Wechsler, 1958)

"A person possesses intelligence insofar as he had learned, or can learn, to adjust himself to his environment."
(Colvin, cited in Sternberg, 1982, p.30)

Learn, adapt, adjust. None of our managers is willing, able, or both. So we need to stop praising their "intelligence" and start recognizing an inability or unwillingness to adapt and learn.

What to look for and what to do

If you are trying to manage situations similar to those above, here are some field-tested tips:

1. When "intelligence" becomes the mantra-of-excuse after you've coached and counseled a person, you are stuck. Stop looking at what you think they are and start defining what they actually do well and where they are refusing to learn.

2. When you've defined what they do well, talk with them honestly about where they'll fit best over the long run. Yes, they may not see it that way and leave.

3. When you find that 90% of your energy is spent trying to figure out or explain 10% of your stunted performers, stop. Look at what you want from performance; compare it with what you are getting; and avoid explaining away the gap. We've all done it. We want people to succeed. And if they are likeable it's even harder. Fact: We aren't being helpful to them or the organization.

4. If it's a manager, remember this: bad managers are toxic. It's easy to believe we're dealing with a single performance issue. We're not. Toxic managers are impacting the performance of everyone around them.

5. If you think you can't live without someone, you can. What would you do if, God forbid, they dropped over tomorrow? It could happen. And life will go on.

What about our friends in the examples?

The Global Operations guru will soon become an individual contributor and technical advisor. It will work well.

Brilliant Finance Whiz has become the Chief Economic Officer (newly created role) of a major global enterprise. His second-in-command, a good manager, got the top job. Everyone is satisfied with the outcome and performance is top-notch all around.

Regulatory Compliance bully: we don't know yet. The company is still willing to invest in professional development.

Do you have a "But they're so intelligent. . ." story?

Can't wait to hear it.


www.researchinformation.info

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Make Some Real Music Managing Talent

They had a vision for what they wanted to be.Url

They looked at what was needed to do that.

They tried out their act in bars and nightclubs in cellars.

They thought their drummer wasn't good in the studio, so they got a new one.

They talked about all of the above with each other and their manager.

They were the Beatles

They managed their talent.


Something counter-productive is happening on the way to developing your workforce.

It's called Talent Management.

Right. I have sinned. I should know that Talent Management is "what's happening."

Not universally.

It has too often become a bloated, navel-gazing, bureaucratic, software-selling non-panacea that substitutes for the real thing.

What Does Real Talent Management Look Like?

Managers sitting down and talking with each other over a (insert your favorite drink) about the following:

1. Where is the business headed over the next few years?

2. What kind of talented people will we need?

3. Do we have them?

4. Where can we get the ones we don't have? (Maybe elsewhere in the organization before we go outside).

5. How can we set up the hiring process to make sure we get what we really need?

6. How can we develop our people to be able to do business the way we need it done?

7. Let's take the flip chart pages that we've written on and go make this happen.

8. Let's get together again in 3 months to see how we're doing and what we need to do next.

I know. That sounds like Talent Management. Except it's based on real people--who are responsible for managing the organization--having real conversations about the real thing.

If you can have the conversation above, you can manage your talent.

And it's time to go to the next step:


What Does "Developing People" Really Look Like?

Focus on these three people factors and you'll design a developmental program that works:

1. Who Am I?

Everyone needs to take honest stock of themselves and their professional wants, needs, strengths, and things they wouldn't do even if their lives depended on it.

Pick a good self assessment tool. Not  4 or the the tool-du-jour. Pick one and stick with it. Run meetings and workshops that clearly take the theory into the realm of personal application. Then show them how their results might interact with the way your organization wants to do business.

2. What's My Impact on "The Team?"

I've written this before: Most people don't get nudged out the door because of technical incompetence. It's usually because of some inability or unwillingness to play well with others.

a. Do a periodic team assessment among the members. Then have real conversations about the results.

b. Do 360/multi-rater feedback. This will help people understand the difference between how they think they're doing and how other people are seeing them. It's also the basis for an Individual Development Plan that will help them grow; and,it will give their managers the kind of meaningful information to have ongoing "how are we doing?" discussions.

Note: Don't forget that feedback is information from other people. Each of us then chooses whether or not we want to do anything about it. The first questions to ask after someone thoroughly understands the implications of feedback is:

  • "Do any of these areas matter a lot to you?"
  • "If so, are you willing to do what it may take to grow professionally and personally?"

c. Do "a" with sensible regularity. I trust that you know what is sensible.

3. Organizational Savvy: How does this place really work?

People need to know how to navigate your organization successfully in order to get things done.


Jim Brownhill, long-time manager at Minerals Technologies, uses a worthwhile activity to help people get at the heart of this issue. He brings people together and has them respond, in depth, to this question:

What are the unwritten rules of our company?

It works. All of us know that how things are supposed to work doesn't always match how they actually work. And, that there are values and principles that mean a lot.

Teach those to new hires and people with short tenure. Let them know how things  get done and what is and isn't acceptable. Tell them that, in organizations, savvy  trumps a genius IQ most of the time.

Note: I'm big on developing talent. When unwieldy programs get in the way of practical application, it's a red flag.

4. What Assignments Can We Give to Provide Real Chances to Grow?

Ask your people--no, ask yourself first--what the best experiences were for learning professional expertise or leadership?

That's correct. It was actually doing something. Having a chance to try, struggle, fail, learn, succeed...

The classroom gives a foundation for what to do. Only experience offers the chance to learn how and gain confidence. Put people in a role that allows them to learn. It's a risk. Not doing so will guarantee that you will never know what they are capable of doing.

Finally,

Keep It Simple. Whenever something becomes totally institutionalized and programmatic it somehow stops being an engaging solution.

Is your talent management approach unwieldy? Does it focus more on HR activity than on developing people? Are the managers responsible for results intimately involved or "kept informed?" If they aren't intimately involved, the talent isn't getting managed.

What's your experience?


Photo source: muziek.paginablog.nl/









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Three Ways To Persuade

I switched accounting firms a few years ago.

At income tax time, the CPA asked me for Occupation. I waxed poetic about consulting and the kinds of clients that I have.

He filled in the blank with "Salesman."

He was right. So much for my "boutique CEO" self-delusion.

I've always enjoyed the sales and marketing part of the profession and even did a stint as a regional sales manager for another global training firm. Many people cringe at the thought of "selling," especially consultants. I would imagine that they are the financially-challenged ones.

Plaidsuit Everyone Has a Talent for Persuasion: What's Yours?

I'm convinced that the whole sales image thing can be traced to vacuum cleaners. They used to show up at the front door in the grip of a guy wearing a plaid suit, waxed moustache, and an easy payment plan that ran slightly longer than the one on your Toyota. (Actually, the Toyota guy was wearing the same suit). He wouldn't leave until you bought something. So, the average person's introduction to sales was all about being pushed until the white flag of surrender went up.

No moustache? No problem.

Whatever business you are in, your success depends on your ideas getting heard and acted upon. Period. And there is more than one approach to make that happen.

As a public service to humanity in general, here are the three distinct ways--talents--that offer the ability to persuade. (Note: these come directly from our proprietary assessment/autobiographical interview and are psychometrically valid and reliable in testing).

You may use more than one on occasion, but there is usually one at which you are most gifted.

1. Promoting. Do you find that you are really effective advocating an idea, cause, or another person (but not necessarily yourself)?

Promoters gain acceptance through their enthusiasm for a concept. At the end of a presentation they don't usually ask, "Will that be cash or charge?" Instead, they talk about how the listener(s) can get involved. They still "make the sale", but in a different way.

Related talent: excel at overcoming anger, negativity, and criticism. They know why they believe what they believe and can articulate it with discernible authenticity.

Is this you? Then become a first-rate salesperson by giving workshops, seminars, and briefings. Have a way for your audience to easily "get involved" before leaving.

2. Unifying/Negotiating.  Do you find that you are the go-between in sticky situations? Chances are you have the innate ability to understand the needs and desires of people or groups who need someone to pinpoint a common denominator within their issues. You're it.

This is a valuable talent but often isn't viewed in the "persuasion" category. Sales teams would be especially well-served to have someone with this attribute along when negotiating. They don't close. They allow for the close.

3. Selling/Recruiting. Do you find that you measure your persuasive success by the numbers? Then you probably are the closer and don't mind saying, "Will that be cash or charge?"

This talent bridges every aspect of organizational life, not just sales. HR recruiters, managers wanting capital or simply extra effort, and non-profit fundraisers all have to ask for the sale.

Take away:

Sales managers: Deliberately put together a team with all three talents represented. I don't have to tell you why.

Individuals: Identify where you are most talented and do your persuading in those situations; or, when possible, create the right situation. You just might learn to like it when you realize the benefits.

I'm curious. Have you ever thought about persuasion/selling in these distinct ways?

Dawud Miracle had a recent experience that illustrates the best of each.

For a look at what the Sales folks are saying, visit Brad Trnavski's Sales Management 2.0 network.

photo credit: www.arniesvintagecostumers.com/

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How to Really Connect

If you care about connecting the brain, heart, and soul, here's encouragement: David Rakel, M.D., is on the case.

Dr. Rakel talks about the importance of emotional experience in connecting with your audience. Listen for his science-based support as well as his call to the medical community to diagnose and treat from a different perspective.

If you are a manager, teacher, health care worker, speaker, generic human being. . .have a look and listen.

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26 One-liners for Employee Engagement

Abc When David Zinger put out the invitation for an alphabet soup of employee engagement tips, it was too good to pass up. Others felt the same way. So David ended up producing the results as the 300 Free Employee Engagement Keys eBook which you can also dowload here.

David's dedication to professional development generated an entire network devoted to the EE topic. You can look and join here for free.

The idea was to use each letter of the alphabet to offer up thoughts on engagement, so I give you:

Steve's EE, A to Z

Amour: Am I doing what I love to do?

Bingo!: We have work experiences that make us want  to yell this every day.

Croon: Our projects make us want to sing about them--at least sometimes.

Destiny: We have a sense of more than just today.

Echo: What we do reverberates across the organization. We listen, so we know whether or not to make adjustments.

Federline: We don't make the same mistakes as Britney and skip the engagement part. Which means we also understand that winning a "trip to Paris" isn't always a good thing.

Glad: We take time to celebrate when good things happen.

Harpoon: When something starts to drag us down, we nip it in the bud.

Isolate: Only problems, not people.

Java: We're skilled at drinking it while the plug-in is downloading.

Killer-apps: We know how to apply our work to real business solutions.

Latitude: What we give to our colleagues.

Mojo: What our competitors think we've got an abundance of.

Nah!: What we say when others try to tell us we're too committed.

Oh yeah!: The kind of thing we say to each other when someone does something really good.

Prada: The stuff we'll never wear because we're too engaged to go shopping.

Quirks: What we admire in each other that the disengaged choose to criticize.

Rigor: We think this is a good thing, since the opposite is rigormortous.

Serious: About our mission, not ourselves.

Telemarketing: What we don't do with good ideas because we know the importance of face time.

Utopia: What we shoot for even though we know it doesn't exist.

Vacuum: We avoid operating in one. Because of our level of engagement, we may avoid using one as well. Life challenge: Learn the difference.

Why Not?: One of the first things we ask after hearing "Why?"

Xenogamy: We practice cross-fertilization of ideas. We also never say this word out loud in meetings.

Yin & Yang: We look for the complementary relationships in opposites.

Zone: What this is all about, as in, "We want to be in the . . ."

What would your alphabet include?

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Talent Package: Include A Smart Heart

Headheart When a brief post generates wonderful discussion, it's fascinating and satisfying.

Many of the readers here are coaches, consultants, and training/HR pros; so, the  conversation can lead to even more learning as well as helpful information like this from Dan McCarthy.

A Smart Heart or a Well-Bred Head?

We are enamored of intellect and expertise. Yet when we look at who are asked to leave organizations, it's often the people who are "brilliant."

The problem? That "light of brilliance" shines down upon an area of content as well as the individual. It doesn't spread its warmth around in ways that touch and help the system as a whole. As a result, it's not life-sustaining.

My experience is that such folks do get a lot of feedback from their bosses along the way. No one really wants to see them fail; no organization wants to lose their expertise. But ultimately, some combination of unwillingness and inability to adapt to the needs of others becomes untenable; so, they have to go.

Talent Implications

Few would dispute the importance of learning in organizations. So here's something to ponder:

Is your organization deliberate about identifying--up front--people who have the heart to learn about themselves and the humility to make changes accordingly?

There are a lot of 4.0 grads out there who have been taught --and absorbed-- a body of knowledge exceedingly well.

I want my clients to get the grads who want to learn how to use it in the service of the people around them. People with a 'smart heart.'

A well-bred head lights up just one office.

A smart heart lights up the organization.

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What It Takes. . .

Rodentfeedback We say we want a mentor, a coach, a trusted advisor.

We want to grow and become more effective.

We ask for help. For "feedback."

This is what you need to make it a success:

The patience to listen, the humility to hear, and the courage to act.

Do you have all three?

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Talent: Accurate Self-Awareness or Karaoke Feedback?

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Your success depends a lot on:

1. How accurately you see yourself

2. How honestly you allow others to experience you

You get a lot of information about "How you're doing" from those around you, so it makes sense to give them the real deal in order to get an accurate read.

When it comes to finding out how people experience your talents, just ask them. But:

Shun Karaoke Feedback

Karaoke2_2 Ask a wide range of people, not just those who will give you Karaoke feedback. You know, the kind you get after you've had three beers, sing Billie Jean while sort-of Moonwalking, and the 10-beer audience cheers you on.

This works for managers and HR types who are hiring, assessing, and promoting as well. If you aren't already doing this, be sure to go outside the direct report/immediate colleague relationships. Find out how things are working across project teams, with customers, and in any setting where decisions have to be made.

For business purposes, the decision arena surfaces risk/reward thinking, sharing information, working through conflict, and timeliness and follow through. If you want to find out more about yourself or others, discuss decision process and examples: it's where I've always found the most revealing information, pro and con.

And remember: Feedback is more indicative of the person giving it to you than of you yourself. It tells you what's important to them, reflects underlying values and expectations, and reveals 'how you measure  up' in their eyes. When you're trying to get a feel for your talents and how the "audience" is reacting:

1. Understand that you are hearing about you in relation to their expectations (expressed or otherwise).

2. If you hold the same standards--and lots of people are telling you the same thing--it would be a good idea to take heed.

3. Who you are and your inherent worth bear no relationship to what anyone says.

4. Whether or not you are actually talented at something just may. Or, you may have a talent that isn't valued where you are right now but will give you star status someplace else.

Where do you find the most useful and accurate information about yourself and others?

Starting a conference call regarding an assessment; back later with more.

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Systemic Success: Why HR Really, Really Matters

Everyone loves to beat up on HR.

Me, too. It stops them from dumping on consultants.

But I think I've figured out the HR thing.

HR: Pediatrician, Cheerleader, Undertaker. . .

HR folks may be the only ones in an organization who knew you before you got the job; participated in getting you into the job; helped orient you to your job; participated in your development for the next job; listens to what you hate about your job; talks to your boss about what you hate about your boss and how (s)he manages your job; and maybe even escorts you out of your job--and the building. (What the heck, Elvis became famous for leaving the building).

Why does this matter?

We've been talking "systemic" thinking. When something touches every nook and cranny of a system, it has a huge impact. Constantly.

I've sat in meetings and watched millions of dollars get approved for Supply Chain systems and consultants.

I've also watched arguments about eking out a few extra bucks for "HR Stuff."

The HR Chain is to People as the Supply Chain is to Process

Hrsystem_talent0421a001

This was a quick take on a day-in-the-life of an HR pro.

I'm sure the HR pros online will want to add their own elements to complete the spider web of organization connections.

What's missing from the diagram is an over-arching theme: Organization Development. The execs that I work with expect HR pros to be equally schooled in OD.

What does all of this mean for HR people?

If you look at the range of services expected, then look at the breadth and depth of talents and skills required to deliver them well. Honestly, there aren't many individuals who are both talented and enthusiastic about all of those. I'm not sure it's realistic to expect it.  Most organizations run lean when it comes to HR support, yet the expectation remains.

Note: The EQ requirements for most of the functions are high. (Don't confuse high EQ with an ongoing group hug). If you really aren't into growth and development at the core of your being, you're not going to grow the people around you.

I'd put discernment, mature judgment, and systemic thinking at the top of the "must have" list.

If you like HR and have an eye for systems and details, by all means jump into one of the administrative roles if you can.

What does all of this mean for organizations?

Read the above.

Then ask yourself:

1. Are we clear about what we really want when we go out to hire an HR person?

2. Do we understand the breadth and depth of talents and maturity required?

    a. Are we willing to pay for that level of expertise?

    b. Do we know how to accurately assess that kind of candidate?

3. Are we looking at the HR Chain with the same level of resource commitment as our Supply Chain?

Thought for today: If your annual report says "People are our most important asset," be sure to double-check the financial pages.

Why?

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21


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Help and Helping, Self-Absorption and Self-Awareness?

Me Giving and getting help--at work and elsewhere--has prompted some more deep thinking on the part of some good thinkers.

Author, Consultant, and Blogger Jim Stroup chimes in:

"This is a great topic, with a lot to think about. It seems to me though that if we become too inwardly focused about it, obsessed with what it says about us, it will wind up saying things that are not particularly flattering.

I think the best way to avoid that sort of self-absorption is to focus on the work, and ask what one's request for or offer of help would do to advance it. Perspective is important, too. Peter's story points to this: we sometimes want to be wanted, to be viewed as the heroic helper everyone hopes will arrive just in time to save them. But instead we just overwhelm ourselves and cripple their self-development. That's a lesson that needs to be learned from both sides - when we feel prompted to offer - or to ask for - help.

So, it's a tough one for both the manager and the managed. . ."

It is a tough one in great part because it's about relationships. Jim suggests focusing on the issue and how the issue can be advanced through a specific kind of help. Sounds right to me.

But when a seemingly innocent "helping" conversation starts to get uncomfortable, maybe the issue of self-absorption has crept in. You start to hear a little voice in your head saying: "I know we're talking about 'help' but I don't have any sense of mutuality or equality. Something's just not quite right."

Listen to Language: You'll See What's Going On

Part of my professional practice involves being called in to quietly intervene in conflicts between executives. These aren't serial killers; these are people who have somehow locked horns and have begun to enjoy the war more than the peace. What has been most consistently fascinating in these situations is this:

1. The executives in conflict are almost always committed to the organization's specific goals and what is best for the organization.

2. They've both agreed that they need help and have agreed to get help.

3. They are well aware that once the conversation starts, it will probably hit a point where it gets ugly before it gets pretty.

Derek and Phil (not their real names) were, respectively, Corporate CFO and Business Group President of a global company. Phil believed that a large capital investment for a new facility in Asia would lay the groundwork for a significant increase in profitable business. Derek's numbers--and some first-hand experience--caused him to take a negative stand on the idea. Both were experienced, successful, and strong-willed. Both were doing what they thought was best for the company.

By the time we got into the meeting room together, there was a flurry of accusations and name-calling.

After setting the ground rules, I let them enjoy their verbal jousting and justifications for a while. These included expressions of surprise on each man's part that the other didn't see the "help" being provided.

The breakthrough: While listening to them, it began to dawn on me that every one of Derek's sentences began with "I" ; Phil's were about "Asia."

Derek was self-absorbed, Phil appeared issue-absorbed, neither was self-aware in a healthy way.

So that turned out to be the "intervention." I tracked how many times Derek said "I" in a certain period of time and played it back, along with the implications. While Phil seemed to be focused on the issue--Asia--it was about his view of the issue.

Fast forward: We got to a civil working agreement--it did get ugly --both left feeling as if their positions had been heard--neither could figure out, in the moment, what had actually happened.

The bad news: The company followed Phil's recommendation and lost a ton of money.

The amazing news: Derek and Phil now regularly vacation together with their families.

The crazy human part: In hindsight, Derek simply wanted to be right. He was proven right.
Phil simply wanted to get the Asia start-up started up. He did, and apparently had fun playing with it while it lasted. (Yeah, hold off on the comments about what that meant to the shareholders).

The take away for helpers, consultants, and coaches: Listen for the language and watch for the intensity of engagement regarding one's "issue." It may not be about the issue at all--it may be just as self-absorbed as the "I" posture.

What I learned and continue to use:

1. When the language signals self-absorption, I say just that to the individual(s). Then I introduce the distinction between self-absorption, self-awareness, and ask them what they want to pursue from that moment on. (Most get the answer right:-) 

2. Success, when it comes to "helping" in issues of deep conflict, is measured by mutual, peaceful agreement on a working relationship that is healthy-er.

3. Even after a conflict is minimized and people are able to move on, the organization still may not get the very best decisions from the parties involved. Why? Because those decision processes are separate from the conflict resolution itself. (Note: the ability to ever arrive at the best decision may have been hindered as a result of data-gathering/sharing being inhibited during the time of conflict).

4. Helping with conflict means getting the parties un-stuck and able to function on their own. If you find yourself being drawn back for more than two, maybe three, meetings, you are doing long-term therapy and not effective helping. A consultant/coach's job is to make people independent at a given task. Any consultant or coach who is enjoying being needed at the same thing for the long term may want to do a self-absorption check.

What's your experience with helping, conflict, self-awareness, and self-absorption? What else have you seen or done that's genuinely helpful?

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Do You Have the Strength to Ask for Help?

Employee engagement, management engagement, leadership, passion in the workplace. . .

Meaning These rallying cries fill books, blogs, and backroom banter. The real issue: "How can we get done what needs to get done and create a sense of "we're in this together" at the same time?

It's actually quite simple:

To Get Something Done, Ask for Help

There is nothing that sparks the human spirit--and thus adds meaning to a task--than the satisfaction of providing help to someone who needs it.

Yet my experience--at least in many western cultures--is that it is somehow viewed as  "weak" to ask for help. After all, if I'm a guy who gets things done, I don't want people to think that I can't get things done.

I know you already see the fallacy in this. Most textbook definitions of management include some version of: "Management--getting things done through others."

Hmm. As a manager that means, by definition, I need your help.

What Actually Happens Vs. The Simplicity of Help

See if this isn't a little closer to the norm:

Manager: "Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. You supervise the customer service reps. You need to be able to support that. Make it happen."

Now, that 's not too bad a directive at all in the grand scheme of things. (For those who only respond to warm and fuzzy, it's probably not). It's fairly specific, understandable, and has an action attached. However, we've got an entire generation of management research that everyone has been exposed to through workshops and reading. The essence of that research is that people want to be respected, involved in solutions, and have a sense of meaning in what they do.

So, I suggest:

Manager: Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. I need help. (Shut up).

Note to managers: Really, you do need help. You're getting paid to make the 8% happen--through other people.

Andrew: How can I help?

Honestly, if the manager & Andrew have a decent relationship, "helping" is about as meaningful as life can get at that moment.

Manager: You supervise the customer service reps. We need to be able to support that 8% bump. How would you go about doing that with your people?

  • Statement one: Places next level of responsibility where it belongs.
  • Statement two: Specifies the  issue.
  • Statement  three:  Involvement and  more meaning.

    (In the event that Andrew struggles a bit, this is the "teachable moment" for management coaching).

What will you do?

What someone does for a living is part of the working agreement. How they do it is why they--as individuals--were (hopefully) hired in the first place. When you allow someone to exercise the personal how, you have created the intersection of individual meaning and engagement .

Are you strong enough to ask for help today?

Special thanks to Adrian at Slow Leadership for sparking today's thoughts.




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Thanks, Galba Bright!

Galba_2 Galba's guest posts here last week generated useful discussion, new relationships, and most of all, new insights regarding the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Change. Just in case you missed the series, here's the rundown:

13 Questions Every Leader Must Ask, Part 2

13 Questions Every Leader Must Ask, Part 3

13 Questions Every Leader Must Ask, Part 4

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13 Questions Every Leader Must Ask: Part 4

        Number forty-seven in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

EQ expert Galba Bright wraps up his week-long series here at ATW.

What Have I Learned?

A study of 3871 executives found that leaders that used leadership styles that had a positive emotional impact enjoyed better financial results than those that did not.
    From “Primal Leadership” by Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee

In the final article in this series, I ask you two questions to help follow up your improvement efforts.

Question 12. How will I consolidate what I’ve learned?

Richard Boyatzis, co-author of “Primal Leadership”, argues that it can take an executive up to six months to achieve a sustainable improvement in her behaviour and a year before colleagues acknowledge that the improvement has occurred.

The client who wanted to become more responsive to his team members’ comments in part 3 of this series wrote a journal. He used a written record of his experiences to objectively review his progress. He also coached some of his team members to use journaling as a reflective tool.

Are you compassionate with yourself when it takes time for improvements to materialise?

How will you sustain yourself as you improve your effectiveness?

13. How do I now behave towards the people that I lead?

The client’s journal led him full circle. His answers and the results that he achieved inspired him to write a new chapter in his development. This re-affirmed his commitment to the 13 questions. His final question was:

“What Next?”

How will you answer this question?

Leadership_2 To Sum Up

Research findings reveal that emotions and business do mix. The effective leader needs to apply her logical reasoning skills. She must also draw on her emotional intelligence. She fulfills her potential by acting on both. She intentionally adjusts her behaviour in order to maximise her impact.

Your leadership role has an emotional dimension. Use The 13 Questions to develop a powerful conversation with yourself. For some, this may be new territory. For others it makes a process that was previously tacit, more explicit.

Everyday, you are telling yourself a story. The 13 Questions is a simple tool. It helps you shape your internal dialogue. Ask these questions periodically and successfully improve your emotional intelligence.

My 3 Final Questions For You

  • Do you ask yourself questions to improve your effectiveness?
  • Could this approach work for you?
  • What have I missed?

More Resources

Download the 13 Emotional Intelligence Questions Every Leader Must Ask

Read Ed Brenegar’s 4 Questions Every Leader Must Ask articles

If you found this series helpful you might also enjoy:

Emotional Intelligence and the New 3 Rs

Leadership for Positive Change Parts 1, 2 & 3

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons Attribution Image by 2757

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Difficutly with "Tune Up YOur EQ" Links? Read This

EQ Links Should Be Working Again on Friday, February 15th.

Guest expert and writer Galba Bright discovered that some of the links to this week's material were not working properly. He is in the process of correcting that and has sent me an email saying they should be A-OK sometime on Friday.

Steve

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13 Questions Every Leader Must Ask: Part 3

        Number forty-six in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

EQ expert Galba Bright continues his series here at ATW.

Are You Achieving Your Leadership Potential?

A 1996 study showed that 75% of the reasons why executives’ careers became derailed were linked to Emotional Intelligence weaknesses. The three main reasons were; poor interpersonal skills; not being a good team player and difficulties in handling change.

From: “The Lessons of Experience” Center for Creative Leadership

In this third article of the series, I present 4 questions that help you evaluate your behaviour, followed by 3 that help you act on your evaluation.

Question 5. Do I have a “default behaviour”

Do you habitually respond in a certain way when faced with a situation or person? Do you act this way despite your best intentions?

What happens, for example, when a colleague challenges your new pet initiative? Does your reaction look like this?

Galbaday31001

Question 6. Do I need to change my behaviour?

The “fight or flight response” worked well in prehistoric times. You are living in an age where subtle nuances in your behaviour can have tremendous impact.

The effective leader seeks to manage his emotions so he can respond flexibly to situations as they arise. This competence opens your gateway to positive change.

Question 7. What type of change in my behaviour do I need to make?

In 1999, a client leading an organisational change interpreted the detailed questions posed by a team member as resistance. As our relationship developed, he asked me to give him feedback about his approach. I observed that he tended to “shut down” when his team asked questions.

I encouraged him to consider how his behaviour was affecting the team. He realised that he was inhibiting the teams’ involvement. The client made a commitment to encourage the team to’ participate.

Question 8. What do I need to unlearn?

Letting go of old behaviours empowered the client. Now, instead of automatic reactions, he was able to explore new options.

Galbaday32001_2  

Question 9. How Will I Let Go Of The Behaviours That I Need To Unlearn?

Are you attached to an automatic behaviour? Does it work for you? Is the attachment logical or emotional? How will you let it go?

I have found William Bridges’ work on transitions  very helpful and I regularly use his insights in my work.

Question 10. How will I experiment with new types of behaviour?

The client found that his wife was a willing ally. They rehearsed difficult workplace conversations .  She gave him feedback at the end of the role plays. He made adjustments to his approach accordingly.

Your brain is very playful. Do you use drama and curiosity to develop your effectiveness as a leader?

Question 11. Who will help me?

Spouses, significant others, team members, trusted colleagues, friends and coaches can play a positive role.

Who do you trust? What will you do today to strengthen that relationship?

Tomorrow:The last 2 questions in the final part of the series will help you sustain your improvement efforts.

More Resources

Download the 13  Emotional Intelligence Questions Every Leader Must Ask.

Download Galba Bright’s 7 Laws of Emotional Intelligence

Read Ed Brenegar’s 4 Questions Every Leader Must Ask articles

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